Jimmy Carter photo

Friends of Carter/Mondale Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner.

October 24, 1979

The only thing I like better than 4 more years is 5 more years. [Laughter]

First of all, I want to thank Fritz Mondale for that introduction and for being the finest Vice President, perhaps, that ever served this country.

His office is right near mine. There is no meeting which I attend or have ever attended from which he was excluded. He's involved in the most sensitive areas of our Nation's life, in every aspect of our Nation's life. He's a full partner of mine in every sense of the word. And there is nothing that has been described here tonight, very generously by those who've spoken before supper, that I could possibly have done without Fritz Mondale. I don't talk of him very seriously, but I want to say that.

Because of his superb leadership and help, I think I should make a direct statement about my own plans concerning him for the future. Fritz, let me put it this way: I expect you to run for reelection. I expect you to be renominated, and if so, I intend to support you. [Laughter] The difference between this commitment and those you may have heard before is that I really mean it. [Laughter]

And as you pointed out a little earlier, it is really good to have Bob Strauss on my side this time—and before the convention, even. [Laughter]

In the next few weeks, I will make a statement of my own concerning 1980. Tonight I won't say exactly what that statement will be, but I can say this: For all those of you who are my friends, you will not be disappointed. [Laughter] Because of a deep sense of propriety, that's all I can say.

Well, as a matter of fact, I can say a couple more things. I asked my Mama. [Laughter] For those of you who are waiting with bated breath, she said okay. [Laughter] Rosalynn said she would be willing to live in the White House for 4 more years. [Laughter] And we have already dropped these hints around a few places in the country, recently in Florida— [laughter] —and so far, as is proven by this group tonight, the hints have been very well received.

I want to speak to you seriously for a few minutes, and I'll try not to repeat what's already been said. I want to say a little about myself.

Where I come from, going on two centuries now, Democrats have believed in seniority. We've developed in Georgia and in many States of the South, as you well know, a tradition that once you're elected, you get reelected. [Laughter] I inherited this habit. There's no way I can break it— [laughter] —and I'm certainly not going to start next year.

But I don't want to talk about just one person's victory or even the team's victory. I'm here to talk about a Democratic victory, a victory that we Democrats throughout the Nation deserve and we are going to win in 1980. And I want to talk to you about our party as seriously as I know how—what it has been, what it means to me, what it means to you, what it means to our country.

First of all, Fritz Mondale and I are Democrats. We are loyal Democrats. We are lifetime Democrats. Neither of us have ever in our lives voted for anything except Democrats. In 1980 [1976]1 when there was a Republican incumbent in the White House, we ran for President and won. This has been a very enlightening and a very inspiring and a very gratifying 2 1/2 to 3 years. And since we've been in the White House, in every action that we have taken and every word that we have spoken, we've tried to live up to the highest possible principles and ideals of a Democratic Party, as described by Fritz a few minutes ago.

1 Printed in the transcript.

Democrats are not afraid of government, because we know government can work. Government can be responsive to the people's needs without interfering in an unnecessary way in people's lives. Government can help all people, all Americans, with particular attention to those who need government's help most. Government can inspire people to be better. Government can probe for weaknesses in a system that's already good and make that system better. Government can raise a banner of ideals, commitments, principles. Government can help to paint a picture of a beautiful dream and then inspire the people to work together to realize those dreams. Government can create jobs and expand economic opportunities. Government can lead the country toward peace and prosperity.

So, in times of great challenge and great crisis and great danger to our country, our people have wisely and historically turned to the Democratic Party for leadership of their government. Democrats believe in sharing that authority, that responsibility, and that power with the people. Democrats who are worthy of our party's name don't forget who put us in office.

Democrats are not afraid to face a difficult challenge, and that's where Fritz and I have been, along with many of you, the last 3 years in the thick of our Nation's most serious challenges, almost all of which we inherited. We have never ducked; we have never hidden. We've fought the hard battles; we've stayed in the arena where, at times, political blood has been shed.

I do not want to read you a list of our accomplishments. The real achievement of the last 33 months, in my opinion, has been something quite fundamental. It's the renewal of a tradition, a tradition of service that has been reestablished now in our Nation in government after 8 years of Republican rule. I don't think I need remind anyone here about the history of those 8 years—a time of bloodshed and failure, a time of embarrassment for our country, a time of division and discouragement, a time of despair and alienation.

I think that the tradition which we cherish is now perhaps more alive in the hearts and minds of all Americans than any time in history, at least about which I know. I'd like to look at—just a few minutes—at that tradition.

I believe in hard work; Democrats believe in hard work. I and other Democrats believe that Americans have a right to a job, to support oneself in dignity and with self-respect. Working together during this last 33 months, we have realized that expectation; we've lived up to that tradition; we've helped Americans realize those hopes.

Despite the economic problems and discouragements that we inherited, we live in a country today with the highest level of employment and the highest percentage of its work force employed than any time in history. And that's a record of which Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman and John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson would all have been proud. It is a record that every one of us here can share, because we did it together.

And I particularly want to recognize the Democratic Congress. I'm waiting for the end of this term and the beginning of the campaign year, when the American people and the news media, for a change, will accurately assess what we have proposed, what we've fought for, and what we have achieved. And I believe that there has never been a list of more controversial and difficult proposals made to the Congress than have been made this last 3 years. And I believe that the record will show at the end of this term that even during those halcyon days when Lyndon Johnson, after a time of tragedy, became President, that there will not have been a better record of White House and Capitol Hill cooperation and achievement for the American people than we have seen during this first 3 years of my term.

There's something else we've been working on. It's been mentioned twice tonight already, but I want to make it clear, because I happen to be the President and I want the words to come from me. For the first time in 40 years, I'm a President that has seen our Nation completely at peace, not a single loss of life, and I thank God for that. And I hope I can leave this office, which you've given to me, with that record still intact.

It is not an accident. I don't take credit for it myself. The American people are deeply committed to peace. But along with that, there has to be peace not just for Americans. We've used our strength and our influence, our national will, our political courage not only to avoid war for ourselves but to pursue fundamental human principles for ourselves, yes, and also for others.

Today, after long years of bloody and bitter warfare, Israel and Egypt are at peace. They are working together because of the United States. Who would have believed this possible 3 years ago? You cannot imagine—or perhaps you can-what a thrill goes through my soul when I see on television Anwar Sadat steaming into the harbor at Haifa in an Egyptian ship, escorted by Israeli ships and planes, American warships standing at a proper distance offshore, and tens of thousands of men, women, and children on the streets to welcome their former enemy with open arms and open hearts and a pledge of friendship, which is so valuable now to them both.

And I believe this period in the search for a permanent peace in the Middle East—it's good not to intrude ourselves in an unwarranted fashion, but to let the Israeli leaders and to let the Egyptian leaders get to know each other and feel the responsibility on their own shoulders, which they do.

And I really enjoy getting a telephone call from Anwar Sadat after Begin leaves Egypt, and he says, "Mr. President, we got along just fine. You know that Prime Minister has really changed." It's the greatest feeling.

And I think here in our own hemisphere, we've enhanced the spirit of mutual respect and national dignity by implementing the Panama Canal treaties. This was my life's most difficult political effort, with absolutely no immediate political benefit, and there's not a single United States Senator who voted for the Panama Canal treaties who could possibly have expected accolades or one extra vote because of that courageous action. And I've never witnessed in my own lifetime a demonstration of greater political courage than the U.S. Senate showed in the ratification of the Panama Canal treaties and the House recent action in implementing legislation.

It made me proud, because it was a right thing to do, it was a decent thing to do, it was a fair thing to do. And it wasn't entirely an unselfish gesture, because I say flatly to you that the United States will reap rich dividends from this action in the years ahead. We're already doing it. These treaties were, indeed, worthy of the Democratic Party and all it stands for. We really honored the Democratic Party's finest principles.

In Africa, for the first time in the history of our Nation, after 200 years the United States stands boldly and clearly on the side of justice for majority rule, for democracy, for the end of apartheid. There's absolutely no equivocation about where we stand. We don't talk out of both sides of our mouths. We can be proud of this; we can be proud of this together.

As has been mentioned several times throughout the world, we are now known as the champion of human rights. This is good for others, and it's also good for us. In our battle for basic human rights, we will never yield, and you can depend on that.

And I might add that we've not achieved full human rights here at home. It took us a long time to abolish slavery in this country. It took us even longer to find the generosity in our political system to let women have the right to vote. I think it's time to give women equal rights by ratifying the equal rights amendment, and I hope you'll all help me with that.

We can be proud, too, of the great struggle for SALT II, which will control nuclear weapons, it will enhance our Nation's security, it will contribute to world peace. It took 7 years to negotiate it. This is a goal: nuclear weapons control, strong national security, world peace. It's obviously in the tradition of the Democratic Party.

And I want to make another thing clear. I'm a Navy man, come from Georgia, and I am for a strong defense. My position is clear, and I don't want to make any apology for it. And there may be those who say, "I wish you weren't so strongly for a powerful nation, militarily." I'm just going to take one aside to comment on why. We only spend about 5 percent of our gross national product for defense. In the past we spent much more than that. We do it more efficiently now, more effectively, better coordinated, better spirit. The Soviets spend 13 percent, 14, maybe 15 percent of their gross national product on defense.

We have been at peace. We've mentioned that several times. The only reason that we are at peace is because we have a strong nation. We are not talking about very destructive weapons. They cause me more concern than anybody in this room—the MX missile, Trident submarines, Trident missiles, cruise missiles. The best investment that we can make is in a weapon which will never be fired in anger, and the best investment we can make is in a soldier who will never die in battle.

And I think so long as our potential adversaries know that we are strong militarily and that we have the courage and the will and the unity to defend ourselves if attacked, our Nation will stay at peace, and that's the only way we can realize all the other aspirations which are so dear to our people. This is a position that the Democratic Party has maintained, and that inherited tradition is extremely important to me and to you.

The true strength of the party over the years has been its unequaled capacity to lead this Nation in times of change. As President Kennedy said—I used this same quote in Boston, Saturday—"Change is the law of life and those who look on it to the past or the present are certain to miss the future." These past 3 years, without timidity, we have plunged head on into the future with courage, with conviction, with confidence.

And today we're engaged, as you know, in a massive, unprecedented enterprise to free our Nation from a very dangerous overdependence on foreign oil. It's the most ambitious peacetime undertaking in our history, as ambitious as the Marshall plan and the space program combined, bigger than the Interstate Highway System, by far.

We'll overcome these and all the other challenges—which I don't have time to mention—but there's no shortcut. It's going to take hard work. It's going to take dedication. It's going to take unity. It's going to take perseverance, and above all, it's going to require us to tell the American people the truth, never to mislead them, never to raise a false hope, never to lie.

We will continue to meet our Nation's needs in education, in health, in housing, better cities, transportation, agriculture, with efficiency and with carefully managed programs, not with wasteful bureaucracy, not with gimmicks.

We'll look forward in the Democratic Party, not backward. And we'll talk sense to the American people, because I believe they're prepared for it, they demand it. And it makes it doubly sure that Fritz Mondale and Jimmy Carter and all those who work with us will minimize our mistakes if, in the decisionmaking process, the American people, through full knowledge and open debate, have a voice in arriving at those conclusions. I trust the wisdom of the American people just as much as I trust their innate unselfishness and their innate patriotism, in the finest sense of those words.

We are now coming to grips with a 10-year burden of excessive inflation on the American people—fundamental challenge of our time. Recently, we moved boldly down a new road, which I believe will bring rich dividends, and that is to recruit to our side labor and business in a national accord.

In the past the Government has imposed upon the free enterprise system of our country, on the labor unions, business, and others, a mandate. It may have been a good mandate, you may have been able to defend it logically, but now we're working in harmony. We're developing our plans and the way to implement those plans jointly. Labor has a full voice; business has a full voice; the Government has a full voice. We're working to cure inflation as partners, for a change. There is no working man or woman in this country that can find fault with our administration's policy on labor.

We're backing up this accord and what I've just said by demonstrating needed Government fiscal restraint. This is not a time to waste money; it's not a time to create excessive and unneeded bureaucracies. This is not just an ideology, but it's a simple necessity of our time.

In 1976 when I ran for President, we had a budget deficit of $66 billion. I've just gotten the figures on this past year-$26 1/2 billion.

And the last thing I want to say is this: As you may have surmised, I have confidence in America. We can meet the challenges, we can solve the problems, we can answer the question if we are united with a common purpose.

Mine is a complicated and a difficult job, but I enjoy serving in the highest and greatest elective office in the world. And I deeply appreciate the support that you've given me in the past and which you've come tonight to pledge to me in the future. The Presidency can sometimes be a lonely job, but here tonight you've helped to make it a lot less lonely.

As you well know from my fairly brief but, so far, fairly successful political career, I have never feared a political fight, and I can say 'truthfully to you that I look forward to 1980 with anticipation and confidence. And as I said many times in 1976, when not nearly so many people listened, if I can keep my Mama's permission— [laughter] —I do not intend to lose.

Like all the rest of you in this room, I believe in a strong nation and a good nation, where every person has a better opportunity in life. I believe in a world where people can live with one another in peace and not war. These are not just dreams, but they are permanent agenda for all of us in the Democratic Party. And tonight, here among my friends, I would like to pledge to you as President, the leader of this Nation, and as the leader of our party that with your help, I will meet that responsibility, my responsibility, to bring this Democratic agenda to completion.

I'm determined to make even greater the greatest nation on Earth.
Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:15 p.m. in the Yorktown Room at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Prior to his remarks, the President attended a reception for Friends of Carter/Mondale in the East Room at the White House.

Jimmy Carter, Friends of Carter/Mondale Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/248226

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